China Unrest Makes Vietnam Nervous
Just one look around San Francisco's Embarcadero last week let onlookers know that the Vietnamese community is paying rapt attention to the world's outrage over the repressive Chinese regime.
The sea of flags from the old South Vietnam wasn't pierced by a single flag from the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, even though the Vietnamese presence, as I was told, wasn't a wholly unified effort.
Dzung Nguyen of Livermore was one of many protesting China's decades-long power play over the Paracel and Spratly islands. "The current communist Vietnam and China have worked together," Nguyen said. "[The islands] belong to our country. China claims they're theirs. That is not right."
The pockets of Vietnamese throughout the massive crowd -- not surprising as nearby San Jose claims the largest concentration of Vietnamese of any American city -- was a reminder that what happens on China's propaganda run reverberates on the people ruled by the PRC's Maoist counterparts.
Days before the torch arrived on North American soil, Vietnamese dissident Dr. Pham Hong Son -- currently under house arrest and a onetime cellmate of another prominent dissident, Father Nguyen Van Ly -- penned an essay titled "Anti-Beijing Olympics Activism: More than a Cry for Dead Victims" condemning China, despite the obvious risks to himself.
"First it is needed to make it clear that no one opposes Olympic noble-spirited games," wrote Dr. Son, who was imprisoned for translating and distributing an article from the U.S. embassy web site titled "What is Democracy?" back in 2002. "Most people also came to agree the pride and great benefits in hosting Olympics should be shared among people around the world. So it might be welcome when such a big country as China to host the Olympic Games. But history told us a case in which a rogue regime took advantage of Olympics to advance a sinister hidden ambition. 1936 Olympics in Berlin under Hitler's regime was the case. And now look into China's case.
"... We want to believe in China but what we talk about the fact China is expanding flagrantly its control and invasion over the sea and islands of Vietnam, Paracels and Spratlys, which are importantly strategic positions in international sea route, what we think about China's hostile behavior toward Dalai Lama's demand only for a real autonomy of Tibet, and what we say about China's ambiguous attitude toward rogue regimes in Burma, Sudan, Iran."
It also wasn't lost on any of the Vietnamese protesters -- hence no yellow-starred flags -- that their government operates in much the same way, taking a cue from China to squash freedom of speech and political assembly under iron-fisted one-party rule.
Consider this released last month by the People's Democratic Party of Vietnam, a secret document signed by Standing Secretariat Member Truong Tan Sang instructing Politburo members how to better railroad political opponents through speedy convictions and sufficient detentions.
"The quality and effectiveness of the execution of the political cases have not met the requirements to enable the struggle to prevent and deal with these crimes," stated the memo, dated September 12, 2007. "The selection of the timeframes, the charges and rulings in a number of cases have not been appropriate, lacking the experience in dealing with the unexpected situations, creating complicated adjudication, allowing the accused excessive responses, giving the opportunity for the enemy forces to use them as propaganda, accusing our Party and our State of violating democracy and human rights, freedom of religions.
"... In the near term, the reactionary anti-state activities of the enemy forces from both inside and outside the country will continue unabated and resolute. They will conspire with ruses and innovative and refined methods, armed with insidious intentions in order to successfully organize loyal opposition parties inside the country to provide support for their radical and extremist counterparts to utilize international forums on democracy and human rights, religions, and races to strengthen their reputation, slander and make false accusation against the state in our national policy regarding the great solidarity of our people.
"... We need to tightly control the reactionary elements, political opportunists who are anti socialism, we need to absolutely disallow the establishment of the loyal opposition parties."
The pro-Tibetan protesters fittingly have used Beijing's Olympic slogan "One World, One Dream" for their global demonstrations for a free Tibet. The Vietnamese regime fears this dream of freedom spreading to their part of the world as much as China does. The torch protests and growing opposition to the policies of and repression by the People's Republic should remind all to not forget the many similar woes being suffered by the people of Vietnam.
"One thing is sure," wrote Dr. Son, "that the activism against the upcoming Beijing Olympics has been in the interest of bullied people, including about 1.3 billion in China, and for a friendly and peaceful future for humankind."
Bridget Johnson is a columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News.
Photo by Zombie.